Courier staff writer
CONEJOS — Francisco Quintana is not quite old enough to be considered an adult, but he’s not a boy, either.
His age creates a dilemma for 12th Judicial District Court, as District Judge Michael Gonzales prepares to sentence him for first-degree assault and felony menacing with a deadly weapon.
A Conejos County jury convicted the Capulin teenager in February of enhanced charges related to the August 2011 shooting of Zachary Rodriguez. (It also acquitted him of attempted second-degree murder.)
But Quintana was just 17 years old at the time of the incident, so under the law, he could be eligible to serve his sentence in the state’s Youthful Offender System.
However, a pre-sentence investigation suggested that Judge Gonzales should sentence the defendant as an adult to 10 years in state prison.
The judge had been scheduled to impose the sentence on April 4. But he ultimately agreed to postpone the hearing until June 14, which will give the probation department more time to determine whether the Youthful Offender program is suitable for Quintana.
As it works on its review, the department will need to consider the fact Quintana faces additional charges in a separate case, which may or may not render him ineligible.
According to Judge Gonzales, the program is a midway point between state prison and the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections. It’s a very rigorous program, and it is not by any stretch of the imagination easy to complete, he said.
While the judge agreed to consider the Youthful Offender option, he rejected the defense’s request to remand the case back to juvenile court.
Co-defense counsel Francisco Martinez said he believes his client should be sentenced as a juvenile, noting that the juvenile system puts a greater emphasis on rehabilitation.
Deputy District Attorney Mark Loy, in contrast, said the defense’s request would not protect the community or serve the interests of justice in the case.
Judge Gonzales agreed.
Quintana has already served more than 600 days in jail, and if the court imposed the minimal sentencing option, Quintana would be nearing the end of his term in the Division of Youth Corrections.
Based on the evidence and testimony he heard during the trial, the judge said he believes that just wouldn’t be the appropriate sentence.
Loy’s office accused Quintana of attempted second-degree murder and three other offenses. But after four days of court testimony in late January and early February, jurors acquitted him of the most serious charge.
They did, however, find him guilty of the remaining offenses, which also included one count of unlawful use of a Schedule II controlled substance (cocaine). In addition, they determined he committed a crime of violence with a deadly weapon and that the incident caused serious bodily injury to the victim.
Quintana’s attorneys never denied that he shot Rodriguez with a .22-caliber rifle during the early morning hours of Aug. 7, 2011. But they maintained throughout the trial that he acted in self-defense, after Rodriguez aggressively taunted him and challenged him to a fight while the victim was a guest inside Quintana’s home.